Opinions Sun, 12 Jul 2015

J. O. Akomaning, my Hero from Breman Asikuma

In a prayer of Moses in the Bible, recounted in the Book of Psalms, Chapter 90 verses 9 and 10, the psalmist says:

For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; We finish our years like a sigh.

The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years,

Yet their boast is only labour and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away (NKJV).

For this reason many people, especially Christians, see people who have clocked the 70-year mark as favoured by God, particularly when they are far beyond 70 years. This is why I consider Mr John Otabil Akomaning, affectionately called J. O. Akomaning, from Breman Asikuma, in the Central Region of 'Ghana, as having satisfied almost all the ticks of the Almighty God as he has gone past his 90th year and still strong.

At 92, Opanyin Akomaning (another affectionate name of his) is still going strong. However, it is not only his old age that has made me to talk about him this week. It is something many people including those of the Holy City, Breman Asikuma, might not know – his love and generosity which have contributed immensely to the academic life of yours truly to the extent of attaining a Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Another, is his service to society. Newspaper vendors are important group of members in the newspaper chain. Without vendors, newspaper producers would hardly find any use for what they produce because it would impossible for editors and their staff to take every single copy of their newspapers to the market to sell.

Since 1952 to date, Opanyin Akomaning has been the sole vender of newspapers in Breman Asikuma and its surrounding communities. Among the newspapers he has sold were the defunct Morning Post, The Eagle, West Africa Monitor, Ashanti Pioneer, and two Fante newspapers, Amensuon and Nkwantabisa. Others were the Guinea Times which later became the Ghanaian Times, The Ghana Star, The Weekly Spectator, and The Evening News (of Dr Kwame Nkrumah’s time and the later one in Rawlings’ time) all belonging to the New Times Corporation (NTC) set of papers.

From 1953 to date, Opanyin has been selling all the newspaper brands of the Graphic Communication Group Limited (GCGL) starting from its flagship Daily Graphic which began in 1950 when it was under its original owners, the Mirror Group of London, the Sunday Mirror which followed and the other four which have since joined the stables of the group.

I developed interest in reading and current affairs very early when I was in the primary school. In my early years I used to visit Opanyin Akomaning’s house very frequently. One of his children, Ruth, was my classmate at the local Methodist School, while another child, Esther, was my junior in the same school.

Ruth became a natural friend because each time I visited her I had the chance to read newspapers which I couldn’t afford to buy in those days. Sometimes, I would even go to the house, stay in the front part where the newspapers were and are still sold and spend long hours there and leave without even seeing Ruth.

I would always go there with a small notebook recording names of important people, important events and places, names of national capital and other cities, currencies of countries, prime ministers, presidents, and other dignitaries including some of the great sportsmen and women.

My visits to Opanyin’s house were so regular that I got to know everybody in the house and they also got to know me. Sometimes instead of standing outside to read, I go to the house and the household was so accommodating, with Opanyin himself being very encouraging.

The situation never changed and throughout my Middle School days where I needed to learn more on current affairs, Opanyin Akomaning’s house became one of my popular spots and Opanyin became like my father.

After Middle School when I started working as a messenger at the Information Services Department at Breman Asikuma, I started subscribing to (buying on daily basis and paying at the end of the month) the Daily Graphic, The Sunday Mirror (now The Mirror) and the Weekly Spectator (now The Spectator). I opted for The Mirror because of Adjoa Yeboah Afari’s column, “Thoughts of a Native Daughter”, and The Spectator, because of the late Willie Donkor’s “Baafour” column. I didn’t subscribe to the Ghanaian Times because of my meagre messenger’s monthly wages, but I always had a copy at Opanyin’s house to read especially the popular Kong cartoons which I never wanted to miss.

Right from about Class Three in primary school, I knew most of the capital cities of the countries in the world, the heads of states, currencies, mountains, rivers, and almost every current issue in the country and the world, all because Opanyin J. O. Akomaning not only gave me unfettered access to his house to freely read newspapers, but he personally encouraged me to learn hard and was so pleased that I had taken to reading so meticulously at that young age.

Later when I became a journalist and Opanyin learnt that I was working with the Daily Graphic, he gave me a free copy of the paper whenever I was in town and visited him.

What surprised me was the fact that when Opanyin Akomaning realised that without any formal secondary school education I had been able to study privately for the GCE 'O' Level and 'A' Level, and followed it to the Journalism School to move on from a messenger to a journalist, he was overwhelmed with joy and encouraged me to work hard in my chosen profession.

Opanyin and his wife have 10 children. He never had any formal education apart from joining what was then called Mass Education (night school for adults). Though in those days many parents, especially those with more children didn’t send their children to school, all the three boys and seven girls of Opanyin Akomaning were sent to school.

One of the girls, Comfort, later became the longest head of the Breman Asikuma Secondary School, while another daughter, Esther, is awaiting her graduation for a Doctorate degree.

J. O. Akomaning is not only known in Breman Asikuma and its environs for his newspaper business, but he is also a staunch member of the local Methodist Church and has for many years been part of the leadership. He is a real Christian whose love and affection for his fellow humans is beyond description.

Both the NTC and the GCGL have honoured Opanyin Akomaning for being one of the longest serving vendors of their newspapers, with GCGL honouring him on December 9, 2006 and NTC in 2013.

Opanyin J. O. Akomaning, I dedicate this week’s column to you, for your contribution in making me who I am today and also for your service to your community. I don’t need to pay you a tribute at your funeral; hence I salute you today while you are still with us and continue to serve your people, your nation, and God, your creator.

Opanyin, may you continue to grow in the strength of the Lord.

[Frankly Speaking by frankie asare-donkoh]
Columnist: Frankly Speaking